Little Rosetta and the Talking Guitar
The Musical Story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Woman Who Invented Rock and Roll
A picture-book biography of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the woman who invented rock and roll—a warm, inspiring tale of a childhood filled with music, community, and a drive to succeed.
"Music is the heart of our story," says Momma to young Rosetta, surprising her with her first guitar. Rosetta's strums sound like ker-plunks. But with practice and determination, she makes music, fingers hopping "like corn in a kettle," notes pouring over the church crowd "like summer rain washing the dust off a new day."
In this stunning picture book, author and illustrator Charnelle Pinkney Barlow imagines the childhood of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, whose rural roots inspired the music we still hear today.
Young readers will see a child's dream become reality through hard work and perseverance. And they'll learn the overlooked story of a pioneering Black artist, whose contribution to music history is only now being discovered.
The sounds of early 20th-century Cotton Plant, Ark., contribute to a child's musical innovations in this sensory early life portrait of Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915–1973), godmother of rock and roll. When young Tharpe receives her first guitar, she resolves to create a story to tell at her church's anniversary. Inspired by the sounds of her African American community as she practices (a sewing machine's whirrrr, a rolling train's gruumm), the girl works "to match the town's song," growing more confident until, at the anniversary, "the notes poured over the crowd like summer rain." Final spreads note that as Tharpe's unconventional style revolutionized popular music, she would continue telling stories of "the joy and trials/ of those who came before her./ ... the story of her people" for more than 50 years as she traveled the globe. Framing the figure's musical stylings as an outgrowth of community and place, Pinkney Barlow smartly uses lively onomatopoeia and crisp, textured collage art to layer the origins of the subject's sound onto every page. An author's note concludes. Ages 3–7.